Sunday, January 28, 2018

Our need for Plato …

… Rediscovering Plato’s Vision – Mark Vernon.

… It is said that he loathed the body for the drag it imposes on life. When it came to flesh, Plato is said to have been like the flapping bird who grumbled that flying would be so much easier if it weren’t for the syrupy air. Typically, people who interpret him in this way do so by highlighting a single line from his dialogue the Phaedo. “The body is the prison of the soul,” Plato has Socrates say there. Then people treat the phrase as a creedal statement of Platonic doctrine.
However, isolating the line in this way is a hopeless reduction that conceals rather than reveals what Plato is driving at. For one thing, it ignores the other occasions on which, through Socrates, Plato discusses the beauty of the body, the health of the body, the light of the body, the care of the body. What’s lost by pulling out the prison line as if it’s a proof quote, is how, in the same dialogue, Socrates tousles Phaedo’s hair, enjoying its bounce and shine; how Socrates had loved to philosophize in locations like the gymnasium, where body, mind and soul exercised together; and how Plato had probably gained his pen name (his real name was Aristocles) as a pun on the Greek for ‘broad shoulders’. It was an apt moniker. History records that Plato trained with the wrestler Ariston of Argon, and was good enough to take part in the Isthmian Games, the warm-up for the Olympics. How ironic that today ‘Mr Physical’ is routinely taken to be only interested in the spiritual!

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